Badly Behaving Yeast and Science Class

Half recipe–French–two jacos

Mixed 8:15 pm Saturday

Molded 9:30 pm Saturday

Retarded in fridge all night

Baked 8 am Sunday

Gave to Mrs. G and Ciara

This batch of bread was close to a disaster. It’s either the new flour ( Gold Medal “Better for Bread” –I bought it because it was on sale. :()…  …0r yeast that is old and very unzippy… I forged ahead, and baked this floppy dough all the same, knowing that warm, fresh bread is good, even when it’s bad.

So that’s one of my first tips on baking for you. Even when you flub it up, it’s almost always still pretty good. I’m a good flubber–so I should know. This loaf, for Mrs G was a flubber. As a consolation prize, while the oven was still hot, I threw in a batch of cookies to boot.  You can make almost anything better with an added batch of cookies.

But  know this: Mrs. G deserves more than a loaf of bread and a small batch of cookies. Talk about giving! She teaches science to a gaggle of girls every Thursday morning, my daughter being one of them. Does she charge for this year-long class? No… If she did, I would be happily writing her out checks instead of baking her loaves of bread. Cheers to you, Cheryl, and all your science experiments!

Anyway, back to the bread. I think the batch was a flop because of lame yeast. I’ll know next time I bake, since I’ll proof the yeast first and see how it responds in front of my eyes to a little warm water. Typically I don’t proof yeast; I just mix it straight into the flour while dry, and activate it as I’m mixing and kneading the dough.

Now for the photos so you can see just how bad this batch was. Here’s the dough in the fridge under a brown towel. Retarding dough for an hour or more is one of the great secrets of not being a slave to your bread. More on that later. (And check out those Brussel sprouts!)

floppy in fridge

And here’s the floppy dough.

floppy dough

And here it is baked.

floppy dough--baked

I hope Ciara and Mrs. G enjoyed it. They had to stay home from church this morning because Ciara was unwell.  Cheers. We love you, Mrs. G–and thanks for being an incredible science teacher. Maybe the next lesson could be on badly behaved yeast?!!!


3 thoughts on “Badly Behaving Yeast and Science Class

  1. Hi Jane: I tried to make a batch of Swedish rye bread when I was in Michigan last month. I proofed the yeast and it rose very slowly for the first rising and hardly at all for the second. Even your floppy bread looks way better than mine did. What IS the perfect temperature for yeast to rise? Someone must know. My mother used to put her bread on top of our radiators and it was perfect. Used to love to come home on cold Michigan days and smell the yeast suffusing the house.

    • Marsha–how fun, Swedish rye! I tried to make some knackebrod–a Swedish flatbread a week or so ago and it came out edible, but not fabulous. Right now I’m blaming it on the bread book I used for the recipe, which has left me less than pleased in the past…

      Anyway, I don’t even proof my yeast. I simply mix it in with the flour and the salt while dry and then add the water (no warmer than lukewarm, and typically I just use room temp) and knead. If you do proof it, you really only want the water to be lukewarm, but even cooler is fine. If it’s too hot then the yeast dies a quick death. That’s what I’m thinking may have happened with your batch.

      As for rising the bread, if your kitchen is quite cold, then you can count on a longer rise. Sometimes I’ll heat my oven to 100 degrees and set the dough inside. Most ovens won’t go that low, so you could turn the oven on for ten or so minutes, then turn it off and let it sit in there where there is no breeze and it’s cozy…

      Anyway, hope you don’t give up. The process of making bread is so beautiful… All the patience you need, and the transformation that the dough undergoes. I do love it…

  2. I use instant yeast – no prep required and does a good job.

    76F is a good temp for your dough to mature. If you’re doing sour, go warmer (80-82…you won’t have yeast helping so you want a warmer environment).

    The biggest problem I had in the beginning was under-mixed dough. Make sure you get a good gluten matrix developed so your dough is strong. This even helped the appearance of the bread (produced better caramelization, ie prettier, golden-brown bread).

    Maybe that is why your dough died before it hit the oven. Or it could be the flour. Or the yeast. Or a hundred other things 🙂 Such is baking!

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